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Your World- Global News March 2014

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Yusuf Alli – Cii News | 14 March 2014/26 Jumaadal Ula 1435

News that made headlines on various newswires around the world.

MONDAY

Arab League foreign ministers said they agreed on the draft resolutions for a summit in Kuwait, despite deep rifts among member states.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had however denied any tension.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE recently withdrew their amabssadors from Qatar.

There had also been traditional tension between Iran and other Sunni dominated Gulf States.

Rifts between Qatar and three other Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — as well as Egypt were expected to be tackled during the ministerial meeting and also at the two-day summit starting tomorrow.

Arab League assistant secretary general for political affairs Fadhel Jawad said the Arab leaders would hold a special session during the summit in a bid to sort out their differences.

A draft resolution on the Syrian conflict, urged the UN Security Council to shoulder its responsibility after the failure of Geneva peace talks between the regime and the opposition.

—–

The Berlin Islam Week event was disrupted this weekend by a group of extreme Femen protesters.

The group of women charged into the conference topless with slogans attacking ‘religious oppression’ and Sharia law written all over their bodies.

Other images show the three on stage during a discussion.

Femen, which began in Eastern Europe, uses nudity to promote their message of female freedom.

Berlin Islam Week is open to atheists and those of other religions as well as Muslims.

It is described as an inter-religious dialogue process.

A spokesman for the event said that guests reacted ‘appropriately’ to the ‘act of provocation’ and continued the event afterwards.

—–

A Chinese plane spotted a white, square-shaped object in an area identified by satellite imagery as containing possible debris from the missing Malaysian airliner

The crew aboard an IL-76 plane sighted the object in the southern Indian Ocean search area this morning.

No further details were immediately given. Satellite images from Australia and China had earlier identified possible debris in the area that may be linked to the disappearance of

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

—–

The South African National Health Laboratory Service was in a crisis due to funds owed to it.

They may have to stop courier services that transport blood samples from clinics in KwaZulu-Natal to laboratories.

According to the The Times the two provinces together owed the laboratory service almost R4-billion, which had left it with only enough money to pay the salaries of its 7500 staff.

The other seven provinces were paying their bills.

If Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal do not pay up in the next two weeks, the laboratory service would stop diagnostic testing in these provinces.

While KwaZulu-Natal laboratory services will continue this week, clinic nurses and doctors at hospitals will have to get all samples to the labs themselves.

Gauteng health department spokesman Simon Zwane said the non-payment was a result of a disagreement with the service.

—–

Two gunmen stormed a church near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa this weekend and opened fire on worshippers, killing six people and wounding 20 others.

One witness said the gunmen shouted out in a foreign language before shooting indiscriminately at the congregation on Sunday.

Another bystander said the assailants walked unhurriedly out of the church and opened fire on people standing outside.

An Interior Ministry official later said they escaped.

The church shooting took place in Likoni, located across a deep-water channel from Mombasa city, a major tourist hub.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

——

An Egyptian court had referred 529 Muslim Brotherhood defendants to the Grand Mufti, who issues legal opinions and edicts, to approve a death sentence.

Those convicted were part of a group of 545 defendants on trial for the killing of a police officer, attempted killing of two others, attacking a police station and other acts of violence.

The court decided to sentence to death 529 defendants and 16 were acquitted.

The ruling could be appealed.

The trial was part of a government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which started after the removal of President Mohamed Morsi in July.

Most of the defendants were arrested during clashes which erupted in the southern province of Minya after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo on August 14.

A second group of about 700 defendants will be in the dock on Tuesday.

They were accused of attacking both people and public property in southern Egypt in August.

——

According to the Business Day, Former president Thabo Mbeki has criticised those in power who abuse the freedom achieved by the struggle for personal gain

Mbeki reportedly said that some people in society “abuse the gift of our liberation to exploit our precious freedom to do things for themselves – whose only objective is personal aggrandisement.”

He said they use their access to state, corporate and social power radically and systematically to subvert the required advancement needed to make towards the realisation of a better life for the people.

Mbeki was speaking at a Women’s Investment Portfolio Holdings event at the Sun City resort at the weekend.

The former president did not name any specific politician, and a political analyst told Business Day it was difficult to accuse him of launching a personal attack on anyone.

—–

Thirty-four people, including eight children, drowned when an overloaded boat capsized on a Ugandan lake

Police initially reported that 19 of the 96 passengers were killed and 32 missing after the boat sank Saturday.

The boat, which was crossing Lake Albert, was carrying mostly Congolese nationals

Lake Albert lies between the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The boat was over-loaded and its captain has been arrested.

—–

Ukraine’s acting president announced that the ex-Soviet nation’s troops have been given orders to withdraw from Crimea following the peninsula’s seizure and annexation by Russia.

Acting President Oleksander Turchinov told parliament that the decision had been taken in the face of threats to the lives and health of their service personnel and their families.

His comments came after Russian troops entered a key Ukrainian marine base near Feodosia crowning a gradual take-over of Ukrainian military facilities on the peninsula.

Russia completed its annexation of Crimea last week, following the February ouster of a Russian-leaning government in Kiev.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry confirmed that Russian forces had stormed a Ukrainian military base on the Crimean Peninsula on Monday morning and taken two servicemen captive.

The ministry said when Russian troops seized the marine base in the port of Feodosia, they detained up to 80 Ukrainian servicemen on-site and took two injured Ukrainians away by helicopter.

Russian forces have seized Ukrainian ships and most military bases in Crimea.

—–

South Africa’s telecoms regulator said it may reconsider planned cuts for 2015 and 2016 in the amount mobile operators charge each other to use their networks.

A spokesperson for the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa said they may review 2015 and 2016 mainly in trying to avert a very lengthy legal challenge.

In February ICASA said that Mobile Termination Rates would be cut to 20c from 40c from March 1.

It also proposed a further reduction to 15c by 2015 before settling at 10c by March 2016.

Icasa subsequently changed the starting date to April 1, mainly due to the court challenge by mobile operators who fear revenues streams will be curtailed.

Mobile operators MTN and Vodacom have asked a Johannesburg court to halt plans by Icasa to halve the fees operators charge competitors to carry calls on their networks.

The cuts would have benefited Telkom Mobile and Cell C, and the issue has seen virulent discussions in the industry.

—–

Gunmen had reportedly killed 20 soldiers in an attack on a military checkpoint in eastern Yemen.

Military sources blamed the attack on what it called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

A source told the AFP news agency that fighters in several vehicles attacked the position in Reida, 135km from the provincial capital Mukalla.

There had been frequent attacks on security forces in Yemen and the violence is usually blamed on “al-Qaeda.”

The United States launches regular drone attacks against what it calls “militants” and has killed dozens of fighters within the past year.

The strikes have been criticised by human rights activists, who say they have killed many civilians.

The United Nations said 16 civilians died and at least 10 were wounded when drones targeted two separate wedding processions in December.

——

The Democratic Alliance said it would demand that President Jacob Zuma submit a full repayment plan for upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said she would write to both President Jacob Zuma and the Speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu calling for the full-repayment plan for the money owed by the president to South Africa.

The party would forge ahead with attempts to initiate impeachment proceedings against Zuma after findings by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from R246m security upgrades to his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

Madonsela said Zuma should pay back taxpayers’ money used for those part of the upgrades that were found not to be for security purposes.

A motion to remove all Cabinet ministers implicated in the report will also be tabled.

This motion would run concurrently with the motion to impeach President Zuma, and will prevent him from standing for public office again and from accruing any benefits of public office.

—–

Mandrax with a street value of about R2bn was seized in Benoni on the East Rand in one of the biggest drug busts of the year.

About three tons of mandrax were seized on Sunday.

The drugs were discovered after a fire broke out on a plot in Crystal Park.

When the fire department arrived at the house the gate was locked and firefighters had to force it open.

Firefighters put out the fire and found a lab which was used to manufacture drugs.

A case of manufacturing drugs was being investigated by police.

No arrests had been made.

—–

TUESDAY

The Muslim world had reacted with shock to an Egyptian court that has sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death.

It is the largest death sentence handed out in Egypt’s modern history.

Turmoil had deepened since the army overthrew Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July.

The ruling drew widespread criticism from international Human rights groups.

Most of the defendants at Monday’s hearing were detained and charged with carrying out attacks during clashes which erupted in after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo on August 14.

On Tuesday, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, and 682 others faced trial on charges of incitement to kill.

The illegitimate Egyptian military government is strongly supported by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

—–

Malaysia drew criticism at home and abroad for announcing that a missing passenger jet with 239 people aboard had been lost at sea, even before any wreckage was found.

The country’s flag carrier also drew ire for informing some relatives of the plane’s loss by text message, although it insisted this had been a “last resort”.

A sombre Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished more than two weeks ago, had “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.

He cited fresh analysis of satellite tracking data and said the information was being shared “out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families”.

Malaysian authorities had come in for repeated criticism for perceived secretiveness and contradictory information since the plane fell off air traffic control screens on March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.


Heads of Arab states held their annual summit amid an unprecedented diplomatic fallout among the Gulf countries and tension over the crisis in Egypt and the conflict in Syria.

Thirteen heads of states and other leaders have gathered in Kuwait for the two-day Arab League summit.

Syria’s seat in the 22-nation bloc remained vacant although the last annual summit, held in Doha, granted the seat to the opposition.

Syria’s membership was suspended in November 2011 over the government’s bloody crackdown on dissent.

The leader of Syria’s opposition National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, has been invited to address the Arab summit, but countries such as Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria expressed reservations to granting the seat to the opponents of the embattled Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

—–

The death toll from a massive mudslide in the US state of Washington continued to rise as rescuers, who were battling uneven ground and rising water, found more bodies.

According to the latest reports, the huge mudslide left 14 people dead while the number of those who were still missing or unaccounted for has risen to 176.

Authorities expressed concerns that the number of deceased could rise to far above 14.

The 1-square-mile mudslide hit rural Snohomish County on Saturday, destroying nearly 30 homes.

The mudslide has also left several other people critically injured.

—–

US President Barack Obama and major industrialised allies warned Russia that it faced damaging economic sanctions if President Vladimir Putin took further action to destabilise Ukraine following the seizure of Crimea.

Leaders of the Group of Seven nations, meeting without Russia, agreed to hold their own summit this year instead of attending a planned G8 meeting in the Russian Olympic venue of Sochi.

They suspended their participation in the G8 until Russia changes course.

Leaders of the 7 countries condemned what they called “Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law”.

They also agreed their energy ministers would work together to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas and increase energy security.

They urged the International Monetary Fund to reach a rapid agreement with Ukraine to unlock urgently needed financial aid for the country’s shattered economy

—–

Platinum mining bosses says the impact of the mining strike by Amcu, which began in January, has caused irreparable harm as R10billion in revenue has already been lost.

A joint statement by the CEOs of Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum, and Lonmin Platinum says the extended strike on the platinum belt is unprecedented

The financial cost was close to R10bn in revenue lost, and around R4.4bn in earnings lost to employees.

The statement said mines and shafts are becoming unviable, people are hungry, children are not going to school, businesses are closing, and crime in the platinum belt is increasing.

The CEOs said the structural shift Amcu was seeking had consequences.

Members of Amcu at the three companies downed tools on January 23 to push for a basic monthly salary of R12,500.

They rejected a wage offer of up to nine percent.

—–

Officials said a double-decker bus carrying municipal workers on a field trip plunged off a steep road into a ravine in western Thailand, killing at least 30 people.

The accident happened on Monday night in Tak, which borders Myanmar, as several buses ferried Thai local government workers for a field trip to Laos.

Tak’s provincial governor said 22 people were injured in the crash that occurred when the driver tried to pass other cars on a steep, winding mountain road.

The driver, who survived the accident with a broken rib, said he tried to slow down but claimed the brakes stopped working.

A local police captain, said the brakes failed as the bus came downhill on a hilly road and it crashed through the concrete barrier and fell into a 150-metre deep ravine

—–

Human bombers and gunmen attacked an election commission office beside the home of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and engaged in a lengthy gun battle with security forces.

More than three hours after the initial explosions in the western Darulaman area of the Afghan capital, sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the area, which had been cordoned off by police.

Ghani, a former World Bank official who was seen as a frontrunner in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai, was not at home at the time of the attack.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group had vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the ballot on April 5, urging their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces in the run up to election day.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter that two civilians wounded in the attack had been taken to hospital.

—–

Two primary schools in Yeoville, Johannesburg, may have been closed for failing to meet health and safety regulations.

The Gauteng education department said an inspection was carried out at three schools in Ward 67 on to check if they complied with the department’s post-registration requirements.

Greenfield Primary School and Bellevue Primary School were found to be non-compliant with certain regulations, and the third school had been operating illegally.

The department’s spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane said a notice of intention for closure will be submitted for the head of consideration.

The department did not specify which health and safety regulations these were.

—–

Egypt’s mass sentencing to death of 529 alleged supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi is a breach of international human rights law.

Rupert Coville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights said the astounding number of people sentenced to death in this case was unprecedented in recent history.

He said the mass imposition of the death penalty after a trial that was rife with procedural irregularities was in breach of international human rights law.

The sentences were handed down on Monday after a trial that lasted just two days, which had placed more than 2,000 alleged Muslims supporters on mass trials since the army overthrew Morsi in July.

Coville said a death sentence may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial and due process standards.

A mass trial conducted over just two days cannot possibly have met even the most basic requirements for a fair trial.

—–

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said information about flights taken by President Jacob Zuma was “sensitive and cannot be made public”.

Mapisa-Nqakula was asked by the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s David Maynier about the number and cost of flights by President Jacob Zuma in the presidential jet, other fixed-wing aircraft, and VIP helicopters.

However in a written reply to his parliamentary question, the Defence Minister refused to divulge the information.

Maynier said the department had already disclosed to Parliament that Zuma took nearly 300 VIP flights between 2009 and 2011, at a cost of more than R140 million.

He said there was no reason for the secrecy and that the minister was trying to protect Zuma from another spending scandal.

Meanwhile, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) said the Nkandla saga needed to be taken to the National Assembly for debate and consideration.

—–

A teacher was suspended for allegedly using corporal punishment to discipline pupils at the Lugobe High school near Umbumbulu on the South Coast.

The teacher was suspended for allegedly using a plastic pipe to discipline pupils who were late for school.

KZN education departmentspokesman Muzi Mahlambi said it was a criminal offence for teachers to use corporal punishment and the department would deal with such incidents “harshly” and “accordingly”.

Mahlambi said corporal punishment incidents in schools were reported every week since the beginning of the school year.

The use of corporal punishment was banned in public schools and teachers who practised it were breaking the law, said Childline National executive officer Dumisile Nala.

—–

 

An Egyptian court opened and adjourned a second mass trial of 683 alleged supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s top leader, on charges of murder, incitement of violence and sabotage.

The proceedings in Minya, south of Cairo, which was adjourned until April 28, came a day after the same court handed down death sentences to 529 suspected backers of Morsi over a deadly attack on a police station.

The charges in the proceedings also stemmed from rioting last August sparked by the security forces’ storming of two Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo that killed over 600 people.

The dispersal of the protest camps came weeks after the military overthrew Morsi.

Only 68 of the 683 defendants were in the dock today.

The rest were being tried in absentia.

—–

WEDNESDAY

South Africa and Rwanda were reportedly working on mending their relations amid the ongoing diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Three Rwandan diplomats and a diplomat from Burundi were ordered out by Pretoria early this month after SA security services linked them to a raid by gunmen against the Johannesburg home of an exiled Rwandan general and critic of President Paul Kagame.

In retaliation, the Rwandan government expelled six South African diplomats, accusing Pretoria of sheltering individuals whom it linked to “terrorist acts” in Rwanda.

According to an SABC report, President Jacob Zuma, who recently met his Rwandan counterpart, said the two presidents had agreed to hold direct talks to ease the simmering tensions.

The two leaders met face to face for the first time since the expulsion of senior diplomats by both sides.

—–

Syrian anti government fighters have seized control of a tourist site by the Turkish border, that allowed them a small foothold by the Mediterranean for the first time since the uprising erupted three years ago.

Amateur video posted online by activists showed a group of rebels by the sea in the seaside strip known as Samra, some sitting on rocks and raising their guns.

The narrator of the video said “this is the village of Samra,which they said was under the rule of rebels.”

Samra straddles the Syria-Turkey border and the Turkish government has allowed Syrian rebels to ship in aid, weapons and men through its border crossing.

Still, Samra has no port, and Syrian military aircraft are likely to bomb rebels trying to use any sea passage.

There was no government confirmation of Samra’s capture.

—–

Israeli warships opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the southern coast of the besieged Gaza Strip as the Tel Aviv regime’s aggression against Palestinians continues unabated.

Witnesses said Israeli forces fired at the boats near the city of Rafah, situated 30 kilometerssouth of Gaza City, injuring four fishermen.

The fishermen were shifted to nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital, where medics said they have suffered moderate injuries.

On March 18, Israeli warships opened fire on several Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, forcing the fishermen to sail back to shore.

There were no reports of casualties.

—–

The likely death toll from a devastating weekend landslide in Washington state rose to 24 after rescue workers recovered two bodies and believed they had located eight more.

As many as 176 people remained listed as missing three days after a rain-soaked hillside collapsed on Saturday.

It tumbled over a river, across a state road and into a rural residential area where it buried dozens of homes near the town of Oso.

The discovery of additional bodies came as crews searched in drizzling rain for survivors amid fading hopes that anyone could still be plucked alive from the massive pile of heavy muck and debris.

Officials said they were hoping that the number of missing would decline as some of those listed may have been double-counted or were slow to alert family and officials of their whereabouts.

The disaster already ranks as one of the deadliest landslides in recent U.S. history.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in 1969, 150 people were killed in landslides and ensuing floods in Nelson County, Virginia.

—–

A 6-year-old girl was shot and wounded during a protest in Lorraine village near Ga-Sekororo, in Limpopo.

Police spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said the girl was grazed on the back of her head when police fired shots during the protest on Tuesday.

He said her mother claims that the child was shot by the police during the protest.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate will determine who was responsible for the girl’s injury.

The 6-year-old was admitted to the Sekororo Hospital for observation.

She was not severely wounded but medical observation was necessary due to her age and because it was a head injury.

—–

Arab leaders have called for a political solution to the conflict in Syria, although the Syrian opposition had asked for “sophisticated” arms to tip the balance of power.

The regional body, in its final statement issued after a two-day summit in Kuwait, also condemned the mass killings committed by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

They called for a political solution to the Syrian crisis in accordance with the Geneva I declaration.

The Arab League recognised the Syrian Nation Coalition as the legal representative of the Syrian people, despite the League’s decision to bar the opposition from filling Syria’s seat at the summit.

Today’s communique also refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and condemned the crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians.

——

A clinic that was torched during a service delivery protest in Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria, would not be rebuilt.

Gauteng health MEC Hope Papo was quoted by the star as saying his department will not be rebuilding the clinic or any other public health facility destroyed by…thugs.

He said the department would take our budget to other regions where it is needed, adding that the people who burnt down the R3m clinic were thugs and criminals

Last month, protesters set alight seven buildings in Bronkhorstspruit including the clinic, a library, a hall and a house.

They were protesting over a prepaid electricity system.

—–

The DA wanted the taxman to slap President Jacob Zuma with a R16 million bill for the money spent on upgrading his Nkandla home,as Zuma began to feel the heat of the public protector’s report on his private homestead.

The president faced criminal charges and the possibility of impeachment.

The DA’s Parliamentary Caucus chairman Wilmot James and finance spokesman Tim Harris said they believed Zuma owed R16.8m from fringe benefits he received in non-security upgrades at Nkandla.

The DA said it would write to the acting commissioner of Sars to request that a full investigation be launched to determine the exact amount that President Zuma owes in taxes arising from the upgrade at Nkandla.

In a report into maladministration and overspending at Nkandla released last week, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said Zuma should repay some of the money which was spent on the non-security upgrades to the home, including a visitor’s centre, a cattle kraal and swimming pool.

A day after the public protector released her report, the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) laid charges against Zuma.

Meanwhile in Parliament the DA said it was one step closer to initiating impeachment processes against Zuma.

—–

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has called for an end to persecution of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslims,in one of the strongest US congressional criticisms yet of Myanmar’s reformist government.

The committee urged the United States and the wider international community to press Myanmar to protect ethnic and religious minorities.

Myanmar’s ambassador to Washington rejected allegations of mistreatment against minorities and said the government would not tolerate incitement to religious hatred.

Since mid-2012, close to 280 people, mostly Rohingya, had died in Buddhist-Muslim clashes in western Rakhine state.

Some 140,000 Rohingya have been forced into camps, and tens of thousands have fled by boat.

Republican committee chairman Ed Royce said Myanmar could not claim progress on reforms if it did not improve treatment of the stateless Rohingya.

He said the US State Department should “take off the rose-coloured glasses”.

The quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein faces growing criticism, most recently over its expulsion of the aid agency Doctors Without Borders from Rakhine state.

—–

The African Union branded militia targeting Muslims in Central African Republic as “terrorists” and said they would be treated as enemy combatants, a day after a Congolese peacekeeper was killed.

The statement suggested deepening international frustration at continuing violence in the impoverished and landlocked country despite the deployment of 2,000 French soldiers and a 6,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission.

The incident is the latest in a wave of attacks on the AU peacekeepers, known as MISCA, by the ‘anti-balaka’ militia. “

The statement said MISCA considers anti-balakas as terrorists and enemy combatants, and they shall be treated accordingly”.

The killing brought the total number of MISCA peacekeepers who have died in Central African Republic to 21.

—–

THURSDAY

Three of EFF leader Julius Malema’s business associates were acquitted on corruption charges in the Mokopane Regional Court.

Defence lawyer Isaac Raphele said the court dismissed the case on the basis that the evidence presented by the State could not sustain the charges.

The State alleged that Malema and his co-accused misrepresented themselves to the Limpopo roads and transport department, leading to a R52m contract being awarded to On-Point Engineering.

Malema, On-Point directors Kagisho Dichabe, Lesiba Gwangwa, and the Manthata family were charged with corruption, fraud, money-laundering, and racketeering.

It was alleged in court papers that Malema had business ties with Gwangwa, and that Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust was an indirect shareholder in On-Point.

The State alleged that Malema substantially benefited from the tender payment to On-Point, using it to buy a farm and a Mercedes-Benz.

—–

Outgoing South African Planning Minister Trevor Manuel is not a free agent and is still a member of the ANC.

Speaking to a jhb radio station on Wednesday he was responding to comments made by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

Mantashe said Manuel refused to take any responsibilities within the ANC national executive committee and was therefore a free agent.

He likened Manuel to former Cabinet ministers Jay Naidoo and Ronnie Kasrils whom he said had a lot to say now that they were no longer in government.

Manuel previously warned against attacks on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in an article in the Sunday Times newspaper.

He said that the country’s democracy was fading.

——

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi challenged his suspension from the trade union federation in the Johannesburg High Court today.

Vavi said approaching the court for relief was the last resort.

He said he believed in the rule of law and his rights are being violated.

Vavi was suspended last year after he admitted to having an affair with a junior employee.

The woman initially accused him of rape, but did not lay charges with police.

Nine Cosatu affiliates have rallied behind Vavi, demanding that he be reinstated.

——-

Egyptian General, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, gave up his uniform to be able to stand for the position of president in Egypt’s upcoming election.

Under his leadership the first democratically elected president, Muhammed Morsi was ousted last year.

Sisi is expected to easily win the vote.

Like Bashar al Assad in Syria, Sisi says Egypt is “threatened by terrorists” and spoke of returning the country to dignity.

Every attempt of political Islam to assert itself has been thwarted thus far.

Following Sisi’s announcement, there were protests by supporters of Morsi on the streets of the capital Cairo.

Sisi’s decision came amid reports that one person had been killed during protests against Monday’s court verdict that sentenced more than 500 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death.

—–

Police in India arrested two men suspected of plotting attacks ahead of the country’s upcoming general elections.

According to NDTV, the two were arrested with a huge cache of arms from Gorakhpur town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

They had only been identified as Murtaza and Owais.

Their arrests come just a day after the police said they had arrested a top member of the banned group Indian Mujahideen.

Tehseen Akhtar was sought by the police for several attacks, including the bomb attack on an election rally addressed by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Bihar.

—–

The Philippines and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group were set to sign a historic peace agreement.

The accord came after 17 years of negotiations and decades of fighting that killed at least 120,000 in the southern island of Mindanao.

The deal between the government of President Benigno Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would be signed at the presidential palace in the capital Manila.

The agreement will create the Bangsamoro autonomous government with its own budget and police powers.

A transition body wouldbe put in place with local elections scheduled in 2016.

The MILF has been fighting for self-determination in the southern region of Mindanao, which they regard as their ancestral homeland.

With the agreement, the group renounced the armed struggle for independence.

As part of the deal, the MILF also promised to turn in the weapons of the 10,000 to 15,000 rebel fighters, considered as the biggest armed group in Southeast Asia.

—–

Gauteng police were investigating at least 100 counts of rape against a Tembisa man, which could make him the country’s worst serial rapist.

The Star reported that the man was accused of raping more than 50 schoolgirls aged between 6 and 12, as well as charges of kidnapping and assault.

Police are investigating whether he is linked to further incidents in other parts of the province.

The HIV-positive man could also be charged with attempted murder, as he committed the rapes knowing his HIV status.

According to The Star, the man was taken into custody in July last year in connection with the rape of a 9-year-old Soweto girl.

The rapist would apparently ask children for directions as they were going to school, and would then take them into the veld where he would rape them.

South Africa’s worst serial rapist until now was Mongezi Samuel Jingxela, who was found guilty of committing 66 rapes.

—–

Eskom is currently spending more than R10bn on purchasing diesel in order to feed more power to the grid via generators.

The Afrikaanse Handels instituut met with Eskom about the current energy crisis in SA.

AHi CEO Christo van der Rheede said contingency planning at Eskom remains in the red and on top of it many municipalities do not maintain their own distribution networks adequately.

Eskom was also struggling to maintain the required 2 000 megawatt reserve margin for emergency situations.

He said the few silver linings in a hovering dark cloud are the assurances from Eskom that businesses do not have to invest any further in their own generators.

Reserve supplies of coal currently stand at 45 days.

—–

In an effort to muster Washington’s European allies in an “isolation” and sanctions campaign against Russia, US President Barack Obama defended the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

During a speech in Brussels, Obama said Washington at least tried to seek approval from the United Nations before it invaded Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq was not sanctioned by the UN and several experts say it violated any standard reading of international law.

Under the pretext that former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction, the US and its allies invaded Iraq in March 2003.

In October 2004, however, a CIA report revealed that Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons of mass destruction at the time of the invasion.

He said they didnt claim or annex Iraq’s territory, or grab its resources for our own gain

However, according to Ryan Grim writing for the Huffington Post, Washington forced privatization upon Iraq’s state-owned oil industry after the invasion and required the country to accept foreign ownership of the industry.

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As world leaders consider further sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, some Crimean Muslim Tatars say they’re so frightened by Russia’s takeover, they’re fleeing to Ukraine.

Authorities in the western city of Lviv say more than a thousand Tartars have arrived there.

Russian forces now control virtually all the Crimean peninsula’s military installations, and regulate the borders.

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Disease and hunger are taking a toll across South Sudan, four months into the conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

An unknown number of civilians perished from disease and malnutrition as armed groups ransacked medical facilities and displaced people had missed the planting season.

Diseases spread fast in Tomping camp, which houses more than 10,000 refugees – 13 times as many as the International Organization for Migration has set as a standard for a camp of its size.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 900,000 displaced in the power struggle.

The United Nations is preparing a new site on higher ground to move the more than 30,000 refugees sheltering in Juba.

Aid groups are also worried about famine in South Sudan – a country that even before the conflict had problems with food security – because people will miss the planting season.

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Traffic came to a standstill on Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg at lunch time as hundreds of Amcu-affiliated mineworkers marched to the Impala Platinum head office in Sandton.

Dozens of buses dropped off marchers earlier while more buses carrying more marchers were still arriving down Jan Smuts Avenue after the march started.

The miners have been on strike for two months, demanding a minimum wage of R12 500 per month

Amcu members are also on strike at Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin.

They have rejected the companies’ offer of a nine percent wage increase.

The platinum companies have, however, rejected the revised demand, saying it was unaffordable.

Meanwhile, negotiations facilitated by the CCMA have been indefinitely suspended to give the parties time to reflect on the current offer.

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The top United Nations rights body had approved an international war crimes inquiry into alleged crimes committed by both sides during Sri Lanka’s civil war.

The government strongly rejected the allegations against it and the probe itself.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution co-sponsored by 41 countries, which allows the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to monitor progress, and undertake a comprehensive investigation into atrocities committed in the months before the end of the war in May 2009.

At least 100,000 people died during the war, which ended when government troops crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels who said they faced discrimination from the Sinhalese majority.

The UN and rights groups says that both sides are responsible for atrocities committed during the war but blames government troops for carrying out indiscriminate assaults on known civilian areas between September 2008 and May 2009.

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The energy department said an inland fuel transport levy which costs motorists an extra three cents per litre would be abolished from next month.

The minister approved the termination of the IITRS levy of three cents per litre applicable in the price structures of petrol and diesel with effect from April 2.

The director of fuel pricing mechanisms, Robert Maake said this levy would not be part of the basic fuel price, so it would be a three cent reduction from the pump line.

This was a preview to Energy Minister Ben Martins’ announcement of the basic fuel price.

He said the department was waiting for markets to close on Thursday, and for auditors to go through the numbers before the announcement was made on Friday afternoon.

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Cosatu called for action against anyone guilty of wasting or mismanaging public funds in the security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesman Patrick Craven said all those who have been found to be behind this gross misuse of public funds must be held accountable.

This included any political office bearers who approved the use of these massive amounts of public money, or failed to monitor and stop the runaway expenditure.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her report on the upgrades at Zuma’s private Nkandla homestead, in KwaZulu-Natal, last week.

She found Zuma had materially and improperly benefited from the upgrades, and in doing so violated the executives’ ethics code.

The trade union wants to investigate whether there was any corrupt collusion with public officials, or officials using their own companies, in the inflation of prices for the work done.

Cosatu welcomed the African National Congress’s commitment that it would not ignore or undermine the report, and rejected calls by the DA and other parties for the impeachment of President Zuma and their plans to lay charges in court.

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Syria hassent 49 percent of the raw materials used for its poison gas and nerve agent programme abroad for destruction, according to the chemical weapons watchdog overseeing the removal of the country’s stockpiles.

In a report to the United Nations, The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said the total percentage of chemicals either removed or already destroyed inside the country was at 53.6 percent.

The report, obtained by the Associated Press news agency on Wednesday, said Syria pledged to remove all chemicals by April 13, except for those in areas “presently inaccessible,” which face an April 27 deadline.

Syria’s government previously missed a December 31 deadline to remove the most dangerous chemicals in its stockpile and a February 5 deadline to give up its entire stockpile of chemical weapons.

The Assad regime has frequently cited security concerns but has repeated that it remains fully committed to the process.

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FRIDAY

Russia’s Defence Minister reportedly said that all Ukrainian servicemen loyal to Kiev had left Crimea and all military installations on the Black Sea peninsula are under Russian control.

Interfax news agency reported that Sergei Shoigu said that he told President Vladimir Putin to return Ukrainian military vessels and airplanes which belong to forces that did not show their allegiance toward Russia.

Putin congratulated the Russian armed forces for their role in the takeover of Crimea, saying they had showed the new capacities of the Russian army.

The Russian president ordered troops to assemble by the border with Ukraine, a move denounced by US President Barack Obama.

Obama urged Russia to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border, saying it was out of the ordinary and called on Moscow to begin talks to defuse tensions.

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Australian authorities said a search plane had spotted objects in the new Indian Ocean search area where an international team is looking for wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

The Australian Maritime and Safety Authority said it was awaiting images from the Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion, which was on its way back to base.

AMSA said in its official Twitter feed that the sightings would need to be confirmed by ship, which was not expected until Saturday.

The search for the missing Malaysian jetliner was shifted 1 100km north on Friday after Australian authorities received new radar information from Malaysia.

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The 26-year-old man convicted of murdering pregnant teenager Zanele Khumalo was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the North Gauteng High Court.

Thato Kutumela stood, as Judge Johan Kruger told him that he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for rape and six months for theft.

Kutumela was also declared unfit to possess a firearm.

As Kutumela made his way down to the cells the people in court started clapping hands.

Kutumela was found guilty in November last year of murdering and raping the mother of his unborn child.

She was found dead at her parents’ home in Garsfontein, Pretoria east, in April 2011.

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ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report would be disused at Fridays National Executive Committee meeting.

The protector last week released her damning report into over R250 million upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private KwaZulu-Natal home.

Madonsela found the president violated the executive ethics code and benefited from the upgrades.

The last nine days saw huge anger at how so much government money was spent on Zuma’s Nkandla home.

Veteran ANC members also criticised the president.

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The case against a Swazi national whose lorry ploughed through four minibus taxis, killing 24 people, was postponed in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court.

Sanele Goodness May’s case was postponed to 2 April to allow his lawyer Lindokuhle Mdletshe to make representations to the deputy director of public prosecutions, as well as to allow the prosecution to serve the indictment.

It was not revealed in court what these representations were.

It had been expected that May would apply for bail, but Mdletshe told the court that new facts were being investigated and the defence was not yet ready to bring a fresh application.

On the evening of 5 September 2013, at the height of rush hour traffic, May’s truck smashed into four minibus taxis and two cars at an intersection at the bottom of Fields Hill in Pinetown.

Twenty two people were killed at the scene. Two died later in hospital.

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Israel backed out on a commitment to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, a move that delivered another blow to US-brokered peace talks.

A senior Palestinian official, Jibril Rajub, said that Israel had informed the Palestinians via US mediators that it would not abide by its commitment to release the prisoners tomorrow.

The Palestinians threatened to walk away from the peace talks if the prisoners are not released.

Under the US-brokered deal that relaunched the peace talks in July, Israel said it would release 104 Arabs held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims at the United  Nations.

Israel had so far freed 78 prisoners, but members of the cabinet said they would block the final release if the Palestinians refused to extend the peace talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

Israel’s move follows an announcement by Arab leaders on Wednesday which blamed Israel for a lack of progress in the talks, and said that they would never recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

As the April deadline approaches, US officials have scaled back their ambitions, saying they are now trying to forge a “framework for negotiations” by then.

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An 11-year-old Burmese girl died from wounds sustained in a police crackdown on a Buddhist mob in Sittwe, in western Myanmar.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Min Aung said she was hit accidently by security forces when they fired warning shots to disperse people.

The girl was staying at the World Food Programme’s office in Sittwe, when it was set upon by Buddhists on who pelted the homes of several relief organisations with stones.

Police fired above the heads of the crowd to disperse them late on Wednesday night.

The incident was sparked after a US relief worker took down a Buddhist religious flag from her rented residence.

Earlier this month, Medicins Sans Frontierswas ordered to suspend its operations in Rakhine state following local protests against its alleged support of Rohingya villagers who had been attacked by Rakhine Buddhists.

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The United Nations has warned that armed groups are increasingly forging links across the border of Syria and Iraq, fuelling sectarian tensions in a region that has suffered from years of bloodshed.

Speaking at the UN Security Council, the special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said the conflict in Syria was affording so called terrorist networks the occasion to forge links across the Iraq-Syria border and expand their support base.

He said the combination of a divided leadership in Iraq, unresolved constitutional issues between communities and the growing threat coming from Syria had created a “fragile and explosive” situation.

Mladenov insisted the only way the violence could stop was through a political process that would bridge differences, increase development and make the government more inclusive.

Sunnis in Iraq have been staging protests against the Shia-led government of Nouri al-Maliki, over second class treatment of their community, since late last year.

The demonstrations have tapped into longstanding grievances of Sunnis, who say they are marginalised by the Shia-led government and unfairly targeted with heavy-handed tactics by security forces.

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The High Court in Johannesburg heard that Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s bid to set his suspension aside should be based on his employment contract and not the federation’s constitution,

Kirsty McLean, for intervening unions, was arguing against Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s submissions that the Congress of SA Trade Unions had breached its constitution when it decided to suspend Vavi.

Gauteng Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo had to stop McLean mid-way, asking why this argument was not in their heads of argument.

Karel Tipp, for the Congress of SA Trade Unions argued  that the bid by Vavi to have his suspension set aside was not a matter for the high court but rather for theCCMAand the Labour Court.

In August last year, Cosatu said Vavi had been put on special leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to his affair with a junior employee.

——

On the eve of Earth Hour the city of Cape Town has been crowned the Global Earth Hour Capital of 2014.

Cape Town was recognised by the World Wildlife Fund for its action to combat climate change and bolster quality of life for its inhabitants as part of the Fund’s Earth Hour City Challenge.

The award took place at a ceremony in Vancouver, Canada last night.

Cape Town beat over 160 cities from 14 countries which included; Burssels, Chicago, Mexico City, Seoul and Stockholm.

Chief Executive of the WWF South Africa, Dr Morné Du Plessis, said that judges put into context the efforts the city was making to be climate friendly.

Earth Hour will be marked tomorrow.

Millions of people from around the world will be switching off their lights from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.

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The Muslim Judicial Council condemns the verdict issued by an Egyptian Court in Minya which made a mockery of justice by sentencing 528 Egyptians to death without a fair trial.

The 528 who were charged with murdering one police officer and damaging property were not given opportunity to defend their case as most of them were not present and neither were there any defence lawyers.

The MJC said the “trial” which reached a verdict within one session was therefore not based on any evidence, lacked judicial integrity and flaunted justice.

It called the ruling bizarre and ludicrous, and said it affirms the thuggish nature of the current Egyptian military government that came to power through a violent military coup.

Since overthrowing the Morsi government in July 2013, the Egyptian military has killed over 1,000 people and jailed over 20,000, and is clearly targeting people based on political affiliation.

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